Taylor County School officials decipher virtual vs distance learning


TAYLOR COUNTY— As the start of the 2020-2021 school year inches nearer, parents are left with only a few weeks to decide if their students will return to face to face instruction, or if they will be opting for the virtual alternative.

With the health of their children in mind, many parents are looking to enroll their students into the virtual program, but have some concerns and questions on just how it will all work.

Taylor County Superintendent of Schools Christy Miller recently released details surrounding the virtual schooling option to enlighten parents and guardians, as they work to make the best decision for their students and families.

First and foremost, it is important to note that virtual schooling differs from distance learning. Virtual learning means that the student will do 100 percent of their learning at home, utilizing a digital platform, while distance learning is the term being used to describe how students who attend face to face instruction will learn on the days that they do not report to physical school building.

According to Miller, virtual learning will work a little differently depending on what grade a student is in.

Virtual learning for students in grades K-5 will be led by a Taylor County instructor, and the students will receive daily contact from that assigned teacher for instructional support.

“These teachers will be operating from an actual classroom, and will follow the same curriculum that is being taught to students who are attending face to face,” she explained.

K-5 students who are enrolled in the Taylor County Schools Virtual Learning Program will have required assignments that will have to be completed in a timely manner and turned into their instructor for a grade.

In addition, those students enrolled in the K-5 virtual learning will receive report cards at the end of each nine weeks, just as they would if they were physically attending school.

However, the virtual option for older students, those in grades 6-12, will be operating differently, as the program these students will be accessing is not Taylor County based but rather a state formulated program.

Students in grades 6-12 who are choosing virtual learning will be enrolled in the West Virginia Learns platform and curriculum.

Different from the Taylor County program, these students will not be led by a Taylor County teacher; instead their instructor will be one that has been hired by the state to assist students.

Miller shared that with this selection there is no face to face instruction, and noted that this option is rigorous and self-paced.

“A student must be self-motivated to keep up with the demands of the courses,” she voiced. “The teacher assigned gives specific deadline through a course calendar and offers set times and contact information for support to the student. However, success with this option is dependent upon being an independent and motivated learner.”

Furthermore, those students enrolled in the WV Virtual School will not be receiving nine-week report cards.  Grades from this program are only shared with the school that the student is enrolled in at the semester, which Miller revealed is one of the reasons for a commitment until that time from those who choose to participate in this type of learning.

Taylor County BOE Director of Curriculum/Instruction Linda Casto disclosed that although the WV Virtual school option could have been utilized for everyone grades K-12, they (the Taylor County BOE) decided that the younger students were in need of something more.

“We felt as though students up to grade five, really need that true, genuine relationship with a teacher, especially as they enter middle school,” she commented.

Miller wanted to remind parents that the board understands how difficult of a time this is for both parents and students and is available to answer any questions.

Questions can be directed to Casto by calling 304-265-2497 ext. 1123.

“We’re hoping this clarification helps in the decision making process. In the end, our main goal is to keep our students and staff safe and healthy,” Miller imparted.

Be sure to check out Wednesday’s edition of the Mountain Statesman for additional details on the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

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